As the 2020 election creeps up on us, and we are reminded every day of our civic duty that is voting, it can be really easy to feel overwhelmed, confused and frustrated about how to go about making moves that feel fundamentally and morally authentic to ourselves.
This can be true in any election, but the sentiment is only heightened by watching our two 70-something-year-old candidates have a debate so messy that the only thing missing was physical combat.
In a climate such as the one we are faced with today, it can feel as if the best option is just to sit this one out. And it makes sense. If you are morally opposed to most of the values and ideas upheld by the two candidates, it seems like the obvious choice would be to not vote for either of the two.
However, last week I had the most amazing opportunity to sit in on a lecture given by Dr. Angela Davis, the nationally-acclaimed civil rights activist and author, via the Ruby Jones Conference hosted by West Chester.
Among many of the topics and opinions she engaged with that night, one that stood out to me was her take on voting.
If you don’t know anything about Davis, allow me to give you some critical background information. She is a former member of the Black Panther group, represented herself during her 1971 trial, ran for U.S. Vice President under the Communist Party and formed the Committees for Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.
In short, she doesn’t mess around.
When asked what she thought about this year’s election, Davis didn’t hide her disappointment in the pool we currently have to pick from. And yet, she was not about to encourage anyone to exempt themselves from voting this November.
Despite the fact that neither Trump nor Biden necessarily have Davis’ best interests built into their political platforms, she shared that, ultimately, the decision is one that needs to be made while looking at the bigger picture.
“I’m not voting for a single human being, I’m voting for our capacity to make change in order to guarantee that our movement can continue to make change,” she explained. “I’m gonna vote for myself and for my communities. We can bring about change, and we have to vote for the expansion of our capacity to organize.”
Though she never stated it specifically, we can all probably assume which candidate she believes her communities would be able to show more growth under. And though it doesn’t feel great to be forced to pick between the lesser of two evils, I think there is a lot to be said about her decision to continue to vote.
No one is denying it: this election is a mess from head to toe. We, as citizens, shouldn’t feel as though we have to choose one poor candidate over another poor candidate just so we can maybe hope for a little bit of progress to be made.
But, as Davis reminded us, it isn’t about an individual. Voting for one person doesn’t mean that you suddenly have to identify with everything he has said thus far, and nor should you want to.
Rather, it means that you are willing to cast a vote for someone who you think has the potential to minimize harm for the communities that you both are and aren’t a member of.
At the end of the day, the next president of the United States is inevitably going to be one of the two men we watched speak over one another on the debate stage last week. And as much as that might make us want to collectively roll our eyes into the back of our heads to avoid seeing the chaos, we need to heed Davis’ advice and recognize her truth.
Come Nov. 3, 2020, we all need to vote like Angela Davis.
Ali Kochik is a third-year English Writing major with minors in Journalism and Women’s and Gender Studies. AK908461@WCUPA.EDU